I got in touch with my sister at last. Sure enough, my fantasies had all been bogus and everything was fine. Ed has recovered from Covid and is returning to work tomorrow…
It’s a beautiful morning, actually, and the Nietzsche book sounds enticing. Earlier, when I passed the house of Kat and Corey, the for sale sign I’d seen yesterday was gone as if by magic or the action of little elves during the night. So I began to mistrust my senses: maybe the sign had never been there and I just hallucinated it? Perhaps I was deceived by a trickster or evil genius? Greater people than I have doubted their sanity when working on a discovery; Descartes and Emerson, for instance. But now I’m inclined to believe the sign was real and my senses were reliable. Reality and the doubts about it are strange things. When reality dissolves and delusions take over, the experience is just like a dream, powered by strong desires and wishes for what ought to be real. But actual existence falls short of the ideal that some people crave. It’s much like reading the second part of Faust, full of the fulfillment of wishes as money growing on trees, your heart’s desire being within your grasp. Is this feeling truly madness, especially if many people share the same ideal? It is a nowhere utopia in which everything is perfectly right and good. If we could only externalize the dream of a perfect paradise, then certainly we’d have it made; until the Jaques figure messed it up, saying, “Yeah right.”
Quarter after seven.
Today I’m supposed to see my med prescriber at the agency, so I hope the taxi comes through for me. I didn’t notice much on my trip for groceries. The dairy distributor guy bought a few items from Michelle. Part of me asks what I was doing there so early in the morning. All I could observe was how my body felt: old, tired, sore, and crippled, while my head was reeling and dodgy. “Without love, where would you be right now? / Without love…” But those old love songs don’t necessarily mean anything, do they? You can hear them in any public place, comforting you and goading you to buy more stuff. I never used to feel so cynical, yet something has gotten into me. The introduction to the Penguin edition of Faust, Part One includes this phrase: “Cynicism is the only sin.” It pertains to Mephistopheles, the devil in his intellectual role. I found this information twenty years ago and I never forgot it. If we can’t afford to be innocent, we also have to trust something beyond ourselves.
It’s another cloudy morning. I was just tracking a strange archaic beetle on the wall, when to my surprise it flew with a farting noise across the room towards the kitchen. I didn’t expect it to have wings. It only shows that I don’t know much about entomology, or maybe a lot more besides.
Five o’clock. Although it’s only Monday, I already look forward to jamming with my band mates this weekend. I feel that I’ve fenced myself in with the circumstances I’ve got today, or sort of painted myself into a corner and now I have to jump out of the room. But I feel very fortunate to have a house my parents left me which is entirely paid for, my little fort of freedom. Part of me craves oblivion again, the forgetfulness of being drunk, and I wish I were as carefree as a child with no responsibilities at all… I really miss my mother and my brother for their great intelligence and big hearts. I always got from them the sense that they were passionate, like heroes from a story by Joyce or an epic by Byron; people who weren’t afraid to live, even if they had to bend the rules a little. I feel like a leopard trying to change his spots, when the spots go down into the skin. The brainwashing I received from my church experience has washed out so now I’m free to choose my path. I think I’ve picked it already, and the rest is just seeing where it leads me to.
Quarter after six. It hasn’t been a good day for me. Just the same old stuff I do every day. But the truth is that I have control over this situation to some degree. How nice if we could all make our dreams come true, live the life we want to live; if the fabric of reality yielded to our dearest desires just by the use of language, like magic spells and love potions. This reminds me that I ought to finish the second part of Faust, a very profound and dreamlike drama. Sometimes beauty can win the day and abolish pain and care— especially when it is shared. The trick is to take two dimensions and blow them up to three in technicolor, like a lucid dream, and preserve them in some way…
All in all I didn’t do much today. While I was playing the bass, the UPS carrier brought my new book of Plato. The one before it was delivered to the wrong address, so Amazon replaced it for free. Then I opened it up and looked through it. There are two schematics in the book that I would have to figure out to know their purpose, and also there’s an illustration of the Spindle of Necessity. I love the way this book is organized and translated from the Greek. The Republic, to me, is a perfect handbook of self discipline, by teaching the primacy of reason in the soul, both individually and collectively, then going on to describe the character of the philosopher. A tyrant, according to Plato, is someone whose reason has been overthrown by his impulses. One might argue that alcoholism is this kind of situation, a sort of gluttony gone out of control by the rational component of the personality. And indeed, the reason becomes overturned by the irrational desire to drink alcohol, and therefore the person has become unjust and tyrannical.
At around two thirty I walked over to the store for a bucket of coffee ice cream, speaking of impulses. I was feeling pretty good today and wanted to celebrate a little. Caffeine is my way of splurging a bit without actually drinking alcohol. I also had a Coke this morning. I think I prefer the raspberry tea Snapple, but it’s all good. The drinks are cold, wet, sweet, and have caffeine in them. It’s easy to overdo it, so I have to employ my reason and be judicious. I wonder at what point the rational faculty gets overwhelmed by what’s below the neck, ie the subconscious and its lunacies? It’d make a great topic for a college paper in English or philosophy.
If you’ve never read Republic, then you might find it interesting, even helpful for everyday living. If nothing else, it’s a great classic of world literature that it benefits you to know. And it’s quite reader friendly, written in dialogue form that’s easy to follow.
Now I’m going to ponder what I just inquired about reason and the subconscious. Is it better to keep those things under rational lock and key, or maybe let them out a little to see the light of day? Plato and Goethe would argue over this point.
Suddenly I think again of Odysseus strapped to the mast of his ship, listening to the song of the Sirens out of sheer curiosity to know the lunatic fringe of human experience. I wonder if he gained anything by his rash behavior? But isn’t that a great image from The Odyssey?
The rain has stopped outside, but internally there’s often a desire to drown my sorrows, to escape the banality and get a foretaste of heaven. “Watch the monkey get hurt, monkey. Shock the monkey to life.” My age bothers me every day, and I can’t deny the fact of it. But would I exchange my current state of wisdom for youth? You can’t have it both ways. Band practice today. I might get some funny looks from people as I walk by with my instrument, but music is important to me. I imagine many people would call us foolish for playing in a pandemic. It’s okay for them, but they’re missing out on the fun. Later on, they may acknowledge that we had a good idea… Almost time to feed Aesop.
Nine thirty five. I got rained on a little, but I had my umbrella to shield me. I feel pretty good. The raspberry tea hit the spot. During the night I digested a few pages of Carnap, surprised to find how accessible it was. Basically he says that expressions are meaningless that refer to nothing tangible and concrete. His analyses reminded me of an observation by Emerson: words tend to grow more abstract with use over time. He uses the example of “spirit,” which originally referred to a literal wind or breath, and now points to something invisible. It’s an invisible that Carnap would say doesn’t exist. It is easy to detect a bias in his arguments, a preconception that drives him to deny metaphysics categorically… Before I read this, I scanned the beginning of Faust, Part Two: very strange stuff. A person can shut her eyes and accept the spooks at face value, but logically it doesn’t add up. If you look for consistent evidence of such things, you’ll be disappointed. Suddenly it’s grown very dark out and the rain is persistent. Just a matter of cause and effect. Now it’s a cloudburst, and nothing to do with my thoughts. The same Peter Gabriel song drones away in my head. Only another day in the life…
Ten ten. The dreams and magic of Walpurgis Night and throughout the play are entertaining for Faust, but the consequences in reality are severe. From a realistic perspective, the devilry isn’t worth it, yet I don’t know what Goethe intended to say with this story. I guess just trust the tale on its own merits. Maybe Part Two can illuminate what happened in the first part. Probably my own attitude leans toward realism today, so that’s how I will interpret the play. Faust is self indulgent and irresponsible, and his actions cause disaster for his friends. This is one way of looking at the tragedy, and I imagine there’s another way, more favorable to Faust. The joy of perfect wisdom always comes at enormous cost to someone, even if it isn’t yourself. I used to love a movie called Altered States, with William Hurt and Blair Brown. The protagonist is a Faust freak obsessed with the Absolute, the truth of everything, but this blinds him to the reality of love. Only when he sees the damage to his wife in the end does he come back down to earth. The Faust in the Goethe version never does return to reality, and Gretchen is the sacrifice, plus her family… Goethe was aware of different points of view, such as idealist, realist, supernaturalist, and skeptic. I really should read Part Two and then see what comes out as far as an interpretation, though it will reflect myself more than it will reveal anything objective. A book is a mirror of the reader, and reading is an active process. What, I wonder, is the benefit of dreams and magic of Walpurgis Night?
Quarter of nine.
During the late night I finished reading the first part of Faust. After being seduced by him, Gretchen’s life and reputation fall to pieces. Three murders are associated with her, and she ends up in prison. Faust meanwhile gets away with his crime and goes off with Mephistopheles. I’m not certain what to make of the plot. While Faust indulges himself and gets a little enjoyment from life, he ruins the life of his sweetheart. He’s even responsible for killing her brother in a duel. Faust’s pleasure is had at a huge cost, which I guess is the devilry of the story.
Michelle has come back from vacation. She went to Tulsa to visit her son. She said she had lived in Oklahoma for thirty years. Between eight and eight thirty, the store was quite busy with customers and one of the distributors. I sometimes wish for a time machine to take me back ten years. I really believe I was happier when I drank, though I wasn’t as healthy or as empowered. The difficulty of sobriety is having to face reality without the fog of intoxication, and indeed life is painful and hard; it is suffering, as the Buddha knew— but I don’t think nirvana is the answer. People should magnify the things that make them happy and spread happiness around… Tomorrow I’ll be doing band practice again at Mike’s place. At around noon today I’ll play the bass a bit and make sure my technical ability is there. I used to believe that I was the best musician in the area, but now I’m more realistic of my potential, more humble about it. I enjoy doing music as a group effort now, with less ego and more cooperation. I hope the music venues reopen before too long so we can go out and rock the house. Attitudes toward the virus vary from person to person and business to business. The news about the pandemic is very grim every day, yet we have to hold our heads up and persevere. Giving up is not an option for us.
Predawn blackness outside, but I think I’m through with sleeping for the night…
Nine thirty. Now I have chronic back pain, getting worse when it rains. I’m going to need medication for it. I’ll go to the store when I feel hungry… The question is simple: is there a transcendent, and can it be reached by imagination? I also wonder if psychosis is merely an altered state of consciousness, no less valid than the ordinary. Does schizophrenia serve a purpose by being allowed to survive in the gene pool?
Ten thirty. I made it to the market where Brandi sold me a salad, a Hot Pocket, and two Snapples. My back ached the whole way. I didn’t stop at the salon for whatever reason. I get the feeling that my days are numbered in some sense. Something somewhere has to break. I just got one of those scam calls regarding my vehicle’s warranty. There’s no end to this stuff… I have a beautiful edition in English of Goethe’s writings that I could examine anytime. It’s just hard for me to concentrate for very long. For now, there’s a Beatles song looping in my head from Sgt Pepper. I feel doubtful about getting everything done this weekend. Perhaps church on Sunday is higher priority than band practice Saturday, though I don’t want to let those guys down. If I work up my enthusiasm it might go all right, but all in all I feel very tired of everything. Maybe I can transcend the mundane with an excursion into Goethe today sometime. I hear an unfamiliar bird call from the backyard, like a summons to Paradise, an Eden outside of time…
Six o’clock. Damien was here and we talked after he was done. At the same time that he was working, the mail carrier brought my Goethe book and left it on the porch. Things were kind of coordinated this afternoon, like synchronicity. I opened the package and sat down with the book, examining the quality of the translations and editing. It is a thing of beauty. The Introduction looks very well done. I wonder if my malaise is caused more by the lockdown and loneliness than medication issues? I’ve been going stir crazy, so restless for people to talk with. Damien is a smart guy who builds race cars. He described me as being a bit out there, like himself. He said that most people in his age group have no clue. Said he was in deep with economics. He strikes me as a person with keen insight into the way of the world… The splendor of the new Goethe book rekindles the enthusiasm I had for books in 1994. When I turned it to the opening pages of Faust, I saw a resemblance to my own life and personality. The thirst for perfect wisdom has motivated me since my illness set in. Today, in the luscious spring sunshine, I’ve had an awakening, a revival of my college experience. There’s no one else to quash it, either.